ACTU Secretary Sally McManus

ACTU calls for a return to fairness

In a speech to the National Press Club ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has called for a return to ‘the promise of fairness for us all’ in Australia.

‘The fair go is based on two things: having a job you can count on, and fair pay,’ she said.

 Ms McManus said for fairness to prevail the industrial relations laws need to change: too much power has been given over to employers and wages are flat-lining.

She also called for the restoration of penalty rates for ‘some of the lowest paid workers in Australia’ and changes to laws to stop business imposing any further cuts to workers’ pay.

Ms McManus said Australian workers were ruled by laws which had destroyed job security and left people struggling to pay the bills. She warned that years of coalition governments had ‘pushed us down a dangerous path – towards a different society – towards the heartache endured by the millions of working poor in the US ’.

She said in the US people were being served fast food by 70-year-olds, school teachers were having to take on second jobs and mattresses designed to fit inside cars are being sold to the working poor.

In Australia, in the year to December 2017, essential living costs rose much faster than the consumer price index – electricity rose 553 per cent faster, housing 79 per cent faster and health 111 per cent faster, than CPI.

Ms McManus said that in the past, wealth in Australia was more fairly shared because the union movement had insisted on rules that put fairness and equality first.

Union pressure had led to a living wage, equal pay for women, the 38 hour week, Medicare, universal superannuation and paid parental leave.

Since the Global Financial Crisis wealth and power was concentrated in even fewer hands, and once- secure jobs had been converted into insecure work, driving down wages. Meanwhile company profits and CEO salaries are soaring.

‘Technology has changed the workplace, and the business model of the so-called “gig economy” side-steps all workers’ rights,’ Ms Manus added.

Answering a journalist’s question about casualization of the workforce, Ms Manus said the ACTU was not seeking to abolish casual employment or the choice to work as a casual employee but wanted casual work to be properly defined and for casuals to be able to convert to permanent employment if they wanted to.

She said even those who were not working as casuals were concerned about insecure work – either because they were worried about their future employment or casualization had affected someone in their household.

‘I think parents and grandparents worry about their children being in insecure employment,’ she said.

Ms McManus said enterprise bargaining is broken, with nearly a quarter of working people now dependent on substandard safety net awards. Employers like Murdoch University, Collie in WA, Port Kembla Coal Terminal and Streets Icecream can cancel agreements and cut pay in the middle of bargaining. Or companies like Dorevitch Pathology can simply lock out workers.

‘Our rules must change so working people have the tools that work so we can negotiate our fair share,’ she said.

It’s time to #Changetherules. ANMF Job Reps and HSRs will be forming a plan of action on 17 April, meeting at 8.15am at the ANMF (Vic Branch) headquarters, 535 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne for a breakfast meeting, before proceeding to Melbourne Town Hall to join other union delegates for a mass meeting at 9.30am.Please register your attendance.